Frontier pilots in Denver push for contract changes ahead of holiday travel season

Frontier pilots demonstrate in Denver amid pay fight

A Frontier Airlines plan at Denver International Airport. (Courtesy of Frontier Airlines)
A Frontier Airlines plan at Denver International Airport. (Courtesy of Frontier Airlines)
A Frontier Airlines plan at Denver International Airport. (Courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

By Colleen Slevin, Associated Press

Frontier Airlines pilots picketed in downtown Denver Thursday in a bid for public support in their long running fight with the Denver-based discount carrier to replace their bankruptcy contract.

About 350 uniformed pilots, including a handful from other airlines, and flight attendants silently walked up and down the sidewalk in frigid weather across the street from Denver’s city hall near the state Capitol.

Union rules bar them from chanting but they held signs showing wild animals like the ones displayed on the tails of the airline’s aircraft including one with a bear that said “Frontier Pilots: Flying Under an Unbearable Contract.” The demonstration drew some honks and shouts of support from passing cars and pedestrians while others just looked as they walked by.

The pilots are working under a 10-year-old contract that they agreed to change in 2011 to keep the airline out of bankruptcy. Talks began in March 2016 and the pilots and Frontier have been in mediation for the last year. The pilots say their pay is 40 percent below the average pay of other pilots flying Airbus planes.

Frontier said it is still actively involved with the negotiations taking place under the guidance of the National Mediation Board and has exchanged several proposals with the pilots.

“We look forward to working toward an agreement that is fair, sustainable, and provides security for our collective future,” the airline said in a statement.

The pilots unanimously voted in September to authorize a strike if they can’t reach a deal but union spokesman Capt. Alan Christie said that’s not their intention.

The president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Capt. Tim Canoll of Delta Airlines, said either a strike or an inability for Frontier to attract pilots as it tries to expand would reduce competition at Denver’s airport, where United Airlines is the dominant carrier.

“That’s not good for the flying public in Denver,” he said.

Federal law makes it difficult to strike in the airline industry, making demonstrations aimed at the public common. The timelines laid out in the law would also make it impossible for pilots to stage a walkout until after the busy holiday travel season.